There are three things you need to know about the new F12 Berlinetta. First, it’s equipped with a naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V12 that pumps out a staggering 740 horsepower. Second, thanks to that mighty engine, a dual-clutch seven-speed gearbox and a host of go-fast electronics, the F12 will sprint from 0-124 mph in just 8.5 seconds. Third, the car accelerates so quickly above 100 mph that it can give you tunnel vision.
The first time I experience the manic surge of power that builds from around 6,000 rpm, I’m so startled I laugh out loud; it feels like the F12 has broken free of the earth’s gravitational pull. I also find myself flying into the next turn far faster than expected, suddenly somewhere north of 120 mph, and have to stomp on the brake pedal before I shoot off the road.
The next straight is longer, so I’m able to let the F12 run free. When I shift up to fourth at the engine’s 8,700-rpm redline, the car stays in its frantic upper powerband and seems to accelerate even harder. The sensation reminds me more than a little of the 900-hp, track-only FXX, and I run out of both road and guts before I have the chance to select fifth.
This isn’t to say that the F12’s engine is a one-trick pony. Far from it. The V12 is actually very flexible—80 percent of its 509 lb-ft of torque is available from 2,500 rpm, and the engine is happy to be lugged even lower—and generally offers very linear power delivery. But something wonderful happens way up there in the rev range, where the Ferrari’s sheer power overcomes its mass, and the resulting rush of 740 stampeding horses transforms the F12 from a car my grandmother could drive into a full-on supercar.
ON THE OTHER HAND, the F12 certainly doesn’t look like a supercar, let alone one that’s a full two seconds a lap faster around the Fiorano test track than an Enzo (Maranello’s last pukka supercar). Instead, it is an update on Ferrari’s classic front-engine, two-seat berlinetta theme. Compared to the relatively bulbous 599 GTB Fiorano it replaces, the F12 is 1.8 inches shorter, 2.5 inches lower and just under an inch narrower—and it seems even smaller.
Better still, the F12 is drop-dead gorgeous. The sloping hatch and lack of a rear deck visually pull the cabin back, accentuating both the long hood and the car’s sleekness. Lowering the roofline and reducing the gap between the top of the tires and the wheel arches has dramatically improved the F12’s stance vis-a-vis the 599, making the new car instantly appear more sporting than its predecessor. The aerodynamic channels that run down the sides of the body blend harmoniously with the flowing surfaces above, as does the abrupt Kamm tail. If the angular, Formula 1-inspired front fascia seems at odds with the smooth curves found elsewhere, and contains too much black plastic, it certainly don’t detract from this Ferrari’s overall beauty.